Monday, January 26, 2009

NEWS: Is It Curtains for Cursive Writing?


Cut and pasted from

January 26, 2009

Schools have less time for penmanship

Technology, new standards crowd cursive lessons

By Meranda Watling

Third-graders in Michelle Webb's Burnett Creek Elementary classroom were practicing how to form a lowercase f in cursive on Friday.

Determined faces sprinkled the room as the children wrote again and again -- f, f, f -- perfecting the "loop the loop" on top and bottom. Student teacher Allison Touloukian demonstrated the correct slant and curve on screen for the class as students practiced forming words.

Learning to write in script is a time-honored tradition. But in today's time-starved classrooms, some around the country are questioning whether, given everything else vying for space in the curriculum and the increasing use of technology, teaching these children cursive is even necessary.

Local teachers say, if nothing else, its emphasis has diminished in recent years.

"Historically, we teach less cursive now," said Webb, whose class works on handwriting for short periods two to three days each week. "It seems we have more and more standards we need to cover. The emphasis is on science and reading."

Shift to efficiency

Cursive is still widely taught in U.S. elementary schools, according to a 2007 nationwide study by Vanderbilt University on handwriting instruction. It surveyed a random sampling of about 200 teachers in grades one through three.

Ninety percent of teachers who responded said their schools required instruction in handwriting. Of those who taught it, half of second-grade teachers and 90 percent of third-grade teachers offered cursive instruction.

Also, the emphasis has shifted from the beauty of handwriting to writing efficiently, the study found.

Many schools in Lafayette dabble in cursive during the second half of second grade. Indiana standards don't require it until third and fourth grades. How much instruction varies by district, by school and even by classroom.

Lisa Jones, who teaches third grade at Edgelea Elementary, said she's noticed that consequence of the de-emphasis, not just by schools but by society: "The most difficult part for me is that now they can't read it, because they don't see it anywhere."

Like Webb, Jones said she isn't teaching as much cursive as in the past. Not emphasizing it as much at that grade, however, means by the time they hit fourth grade, they're not able to write as well.

"I don't think it will be used as much," Jones said. "When I was in junior high and high school, our final copies of work had to be handwritten in cursive. Now it's typed."

Pupils like cursive

This shift hasn't lessened the enthusiasm of kids to learn the pretty writing.

Burnett Creek third-grader Mikahla Combs said her mom introduced her to the script writing back in first grade. She really likes it, but she still prints everything for now.

"I love cursive," she said, "because it's so ... different."

Classmate Alicia Clayton said it's hard for her because the less frequent lessons mean she sometimes forgets how to write the letters. The Burnett Creek student still wants to be able to write in her journal in cursive.

"Once everyone learns it and we use it, it will be easier," Alicia said. "It does hurt your hand now, because you don't know it."

My coworker and I discussed this a few weeks ago. Today he came across this link. His wife is a teacher, and one of her coworkers discussed this issue with her.

In today's society of computers, cellphones with text messaging, etc. do we really need to write in cursive? Heck, my pic atop is 'written' with one of the gazillion cursive fonts out there. Sometimes I have to write a letter to my children's teachers asking them for something. I find it hard to write in cursive as I didn't really have to write with pen/pencil, especially in cursive, after I graduated from college, which was ages ago. I find I make a mistake and I tear the page up and get a new page to begin anew. I find it easy to write in cursive the easy everyday words, the common usage words or what is called 'sight words' now in elementary school. Any word just a tad more complex than a sight word, I stumble in my writing and sometimes miswrite it and make a mistake. Sad of me to say that my cursive skills have deteoriated so much. It is true what they say, "Use it or lose it."

Is it any wonder that at work, my job doesn't really require me to write. If I write, it generally is either in all-caps or I write in upper- and lower-cased letters. Writing a fax cover here, or writing on a post-it to remind myself or workers of things. I can imagine teachers, maybe writers (why wouldn't they write with a word processor?), etc still needing to handwrite things and perhaps still write in cursive. We had an oldtimer (older than dirt) coworker. He was so old-school, he wrote his emails in cursive on a piece of notepad paper and had me help him type it up in the email program! He would handwrite in cursive his letters to congressmen, a country club member, a letter to his wife, etc.

I am lucky where I live that my oldest daughter (currently in 5th grade) learned how to write in cursive in the 3rd grade. She actually likes it. My 2nd daughter has what I call the "Younger sibling syndrome"... you know... a younger sibling sees their older siblings doing something and they want to learn to do that too. She is currently in 2nd grade and has already started writing in cursive and pretty good at it, given she only watched her older sister writing and has no formal instruction. Sadly, my youngest, he's currently in kindergarden, may not have formal instruction via school, in writing. That task will fall on me, and his 2 older sisters.

My coworker and I vow to write at least once a day in cursive to maintain our skills. Hard to imagine not signing off on letters or on checks or greeting cards in cursive. But one day, the sad reality is that it may be curtains for cursive writing.

EDIT: hmmm... I need to figure out the pic dimensions for a regular blog post if I am posting a link from my photobucket account instead of uploading the pic to



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